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Budget-Friendly Tips for Treating Psoriasis With Biologics
- By Kristen Stewart
- Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
Biologic drugs are expensive, but there are ways you can save on this effective psoriasis treatment. Learn how to make these medications more affordable.
Moderate to severe psoriasis can be costly in terms of physical and emotional discomfort — but it can also be expensive due to missed work for medical appointments and psoriasis medication. This is especially true if you’ve been prescribed a biologic drug for psoriasis treatment . Fortunately, there are ways to cut costs and benefit from this effective treatment option.
What Are Biologics?
About 7.5 million Americans are living with psoriasis. While many have success with traditional treatments like topical medications and phototherapy, others benefit from newer treatments like biologic medications.
Created from living cells cultured in a laboratory, biologics are protein-based drugs that can help treat psoriasis by targeting and blocking proteins in the immune system that are causing it to misfire.
“Generally, we reserve biologic treatment for people with severe or moderate psoriasis who aren’t responding to more traditional treatment options,” says Chris Adigun, MD, a clinical assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center and a dermatologist in private practice in New York City. “Not everyone with psoriasis is treated with biologics because these drugs carry some risks .” Biologics can cause mild, temporary side effects like respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms, and occasionally rare but serious effects such as nervous system or blood disorders. “If possible, psoriasis is treated with topical medications or phototherapy first.”
Why Biologics Are So Expensive
Biologic drugs are costly in large part because of the highly technical manufacturing process involved in making them. “Sensitive cell cultures and proteins need to be produced and stored in temperature-sensitive and sterile environments,” says Michael Lin, MD, an adjunct professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California and a dermatologist in private practice in Beverly Hills. “Research and development costs are also high due to government regulations to ensure new biologic medications are effective and safe.”
Tips for Making Biologics More Affordable
If your doctor has prescribed a biologic medication to help you manage psoriasis, there are steps you can take to help lower your out-of-pocket costs:
Step 1: Start with your health insurance company. Many health insurance companies often want doctors to try less expensive treatments for psoriasis first. But if these other psoriasis treatments don’t work, with the proper paperwork, insurance providers will often pay for biologic medications. For example, some health insurance companies require a pre-authorization form to be filled out, which details information like body surface area involvement, previous medications tried, and an evaluation of failed prior treatments.
Dr. Adigun advises people not to give up even if authorization is refused at first. “If your health insurance company initially denies coverage, make sure your doctor is aware of your efforts. Sometimes it’s a matter of your doctor drafting a letter of medical necessity on your behalf,” he says.
Step 2: Seek out a patient assistance program. Many drug manufacturers offer patient assistance programs. Dr. Lin suggests contacting the drug manufacturer and asking about available financial assistance and possible rebate cards. A list of various biologic medications, their manufacturers, and contact information can be found on the National Psoriasis Foundation website .
Patient assistance foundations are another option for help. These are not-for-profit organizations that offer financial assistance to people with chronic conditions to help them pay for medications. More information can be found on the National Psoriasis Foundation’s “ Patient Assistance Foundations ” webpage.
Step 3: Fill prescriptions only as needed. Adigun suggests filling biologic prescriptions on a strict as-needed basis due to the fact that these drugs are often perishable and require refrigeration. If you have more biologic medication than you need, the extra can expire and go to waste.
Last Updated: 6/20/2014
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